Monday, February 24, 2014

English as Preparation for Legal Studies

By Deborah Fleming, Professor of English

A major in English or Creative Writing is excellent preparation for a prospective law student or lawyer because language is the chief tool of the lawyer. A lawyer must have a masterful vocabulary, appropriate diction, and impeccable command of English grammar and usage and must be articulate and persuasive in all the forms of discourse: description, narration, exposition, and argumentation. A lawyer must be imaginative and understand stories because litigation between a plaintiff and a defendant is a conflict between two different stories. Lawyers and judges must interpret the language of statutes, constitutions, contracts, agreements, and case law decisions, sometimes deciding or arguing a case based on the interpretation of a single word. Lawyers must be able to translate English into legal language when addressing judges and other attorneys and to translate legal language back into standard English when addressing juries and clients. The grounding that an English major provides in language study, rhetoric, critical analysis, and the imaginative arts is excellent for students who wish to pursue a legal career.